park ordinance

Mayor appoints committee to review ordinance, hold hearings

Folks won’t be tasting wine in the city park any time soon.

A proposed revision to Blackshear’s park and recreation ordinance which would allow for alcohol to be served at special events in the park was slated for a first reading at a council meeting last week, but Mayor Kevin Grissom pulled the item from the agenda just ahead of Tuesday night’s meeting.

“There have been numerous calls and expressed concerns regarding the new ordinance … I felt it best, due to unrest and misinformation, that a committee be appointed by the mayor to further study the park ordinance,” Grissom told the crowd at city hall.

Most concerned citizens took issue with the possible allowance of alcoholic beverages being served in the park, but others pointed out another proposed revision setting park hours of operation from dawn to dusk would prohibit people from playing tennis in the park after dark underneath the court lights.

Grissom appointed Police Chief Chris Wright, who would be tasked with enforcing the ordinance, council members Shawn Godwin and Keith Brooks, and Better Hometown Manager Bethany Strickland to the committee now responsible for reviewing the ordinance in more detail.

The mayor instructed committee members to hold a public session for residents to ask questions, give suggestions and express their opinions on the topic. The committee will also research similar ordinances in cities comparable to Blackshear, particularly policies that apply to special events.

Any future committee meetings will be open to the public. Grissom encouraged citizens to attend those meetings as well.

The ordinance revision was proposed earlier this month to potentially allow for vendors to serve wine at special events.

Better Hometown is organizing a ticketed fundraiser dinner in the park, “Blue Jeans & Collard Greens” in October. Several local vendors are providing menu items for the event and Rabbiteye Winery had expressed interest in providing wine as they have done at similar events.

Aaron Bell, manager for Rabbiteye Winery, weighed in on the issue on The Times’ Facebook page last week.

“We’ve served our wine and wine slushies at several different types of events in Patterson, Waycross and Brunswick. They’ve ranged from ticketed events to festivals in public parks. We’ve never witnessed any issues from customers and event attendees getting out of hand,” Bell says.

“These types of events help small businesses like ours grow. They also create a fun event for locals and tourists which bring in more sales tax revenue for the area. For all of these reasons we are in favor of the ordinance change and hope everyone with reservations think about the positive impact it can bring our community,” Bell continued.

The proposed ordinance still prohibits intoxication in the park, but would allow city council to approve a permit for vendors to serve alcohol at an event. Vendors would apply at city hall, pay a permit fee, and undergo a background check. As it’s written now, all permits would be approved at the discretion of the city council.

Police Chief Chris Wright expressed no safety concerns with the proposal at a work session earlier this month. City Attorney Adam Ferrell also confirmed the ordinance allowed council the discretion to grant or deny permits on a case by case basis provided a reason could be given for any permit denial.